Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Meandering

One of these days I'm going to have time to breathe. Between the garden, remodeling, and being out of town nearly every weekend for the past month, this last weekend we actually got to stay home and play catch up. Between the two of us, we got a lot done. First things first, on June 17th, I received this beautiful bouquet of roses from my hubby for our 15th wedding anniversary. We didn't have any money to do anything special, due to the remodeling, but we did get to go out to a steak dinner.We are enjoying getting to eat some of our fresh veggies out of the garden. Don't have much on right now, just turnips, lettuce and a few strawberries, but the weather finally decided to warm up this weekend and things are really taking off. I'm chopping the turnips along with their green tops and freezing them to use in gumbo throughout the year. Click here for Jackie's Gumbo Recipe.Here is a picture of the garden. We've got a lot of weeds growing up through the straw because we didn't have enough newspaper down. We sure have learned a lot. I keep planting more and more. Somebody stop me! I've got a lot of wasted space in my garden that I will remedy next year. Finally got my herbs planted.I've really been working with Josiah and being intentional about training him to do more chores. We've been working on "instant obedience" and having a "yes, mom attitude". Things are getting better, slowly but surely. Here he is helping me clean out the chest freezer and it was his idea to use his snow shovel that he bought at a yard sale. It worked perfectly! He was so proud of himself.Here is Hailey Baby in the dress she wore to church this Sunday. She was so cute, I just had to take a picture. She always has such nice clothes to wear, thanks to her Aunt Abby.This was Michael's big project this weekend. You are looking at a finished dining room/office and hallway hardwood floor! I love the color. We still have to put trim around the edge. We'll wait a few days to move furniture on to it.We're hoping to get the living room floor done this coming weekend. Our goal is to have everything done by the end of July.  This was Michael's Sunday project. He put lathing and the first coat of mortar around the door to prep it for the stacked rock we're going to put on tonight. I'm so happy with the green pediment, crown head and pillisters around the door. I think it adds just a touch of class. Now picture it with stacked stone all around it and along the foundation. I can't wait to see the results!The other thing I managed to do this weekend was make a bunch of fresh, raw strawberry jam. Click here for my recipe. This stuff is so good and so good for you. I use raw honey to sweeten. I'm surprised I got as much as I did, since the kids ate their share. My freezer was almost empty and it feels good to be getting it stocked up a little bit at a time. God is good!

Haven't had time to ride or do anything really fun. Michael has informed me that he won't be doing anymore remodeling projects during the summer because we are missing out on too much fun. We haven't even had time to yard sale, something we love to do and it really helps the budget, especially in the clothes department. We need to find some cheap quart jars in preparation for pickling season. We could use some 1/2 pints, too. We also need a bike for Josiah since he has outgrown his old one. Can't believe how tall that kid is getting! Hopefully we'll get to go yard saling one of these days.

Hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July! Don't forget to teach your kids why we celebrate this great holiday. Blessings to you all!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Family Reunion Fun

Oh, boy, did we have fun this weekend when we got together with my husband's deceased dad's side of the family. Even though I married into the family, they've always made me feel very welcome and loved. There were about 75 people in attendence. My favorite part of the reunion was meeting the new baby of the family, my great-niece, Megyn. She's so cute! Very petite. Hailey couldn't stop kissing her. She goes crazy over babies.There were lots of pictures to look through. This is Michael's mom and brother Nathan looking at the pictures. Nathan is really into archiving the family pictures and knows the Whitesell family history very well. For me, it is a like a giant puzzle, trying to figure out their very complicated family tree. I'm gettin' it though! It has only taken me 20 years. It was great to put faces to names.The thing I love about this family is that they are so incredibly welcoming of friends who become "adopted family members". Michael's best friend, Tim, and his family, are one of those adopted family members. He and Michael rode bulls together in high school. Tim came and cooked up a storm for us. His bbq'd ribs are to die for!This is a really bad picture of all of Michael's surviving siblings and their spouses. We should have had everyone take their hats and sunglasses off. The only one who is missing is his older sister, Linda, who died about 16 years ago of a massive brain hemorrhage. Very sad.Hailey didn't get to bed until midnight the night before because all the cousins where sleeping in one room and of course they had to talk and play half the night. She would sit in this chair to recharge her batteries and then she was off playing with all her new-found cousins.After the reunion, several family members came back to Michael's mom's house and we ate leftovers and sat around a bonfire, chatting and cutting up. This was my favorite part of the day. Here are two of Michael's nieces and one of his aunts.Michael's brother and his family live in Texas, so this was the first time they got to meet Hailey. She took to Uncle Nathan right off, and he to her. I wish I would have taken a picture of their girls. I love my nieces dearly and I can't wait to see them again.Josiah is the only grandchild carrying on the family name from Michael's dad's direct lineage. I think there may be some redheads in this family's future, hee, hee!  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Early Father's Day Ride

My sis and I decided for a Father's Day gift that we would both ride with my Dad, something he loves to do as he's "Livin' the dream". It has been years since Stacie was able to ride due to her being pregnant or recovering from pregnancy. God smiled on us that day as it was the nicest day we've had yet. I mean GORGEOUS! This was my first time riding on the new ranch that they manage. It is a beautiful property, as you can see by these pictures. This is Dad on Nellie with Mt. Hood in the background. Is this God's country or what?The wildflowers were in full bloom. Stacie is on the right, riding Dundee, and I'm on the left, riding Lightening. I wish I could show you the panoramic view from this spot. We could see four mountain peaks, Mt Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and even the tip of Mt. Rainer. What fun to ride with my sis. Because she has had some serious pelvis/hip issues, I thought those days might have been over for good. God is slowly healing her and I'm so excited to be able to do more activities with her. Of course, we couldn't take a ride without checking on the cows. I thought this was a cute picture of Lightening with her ears all perked up.This was the best part of the ride, when we got to explore an old homestead house that was still in pretty good shape. You could tell it was a nice house at one time. We were able to walk upstairs, although we didn't stay long when we saw the thick layer of mouse poo all over the floor.  I loved the old bay window in the parlor. I just kept thinking about the people who lived there. If those walls could only talk!I caught this very natural picture of my sis riding along. It was simply a fabulous day. We always have such good conversations with my dad while riding horseback. Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Also, if you have time, please click here to link up to my sis's blog for our pioneer cemetery adventure from the previous weekend. It is a wonderful post, indeed. 

I've been crazy busy with the scrapbooking, gardening, my niece visiting and remodeling, so I haven't been able to check out your blogs. Hope to soon. Miss all my bloggy friends!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Homeschoolers Turn Remodeling Into Physics Experiment

We've had my oldest nephew, Josh, stay with us this week. He just cracks me up. His imagination floors me! I turned around to see this scene. He made a ski run out of a pilaster box by propping it up on the step ladder and the stacked wood flooring. He used the straps on the wood as indicators (100 yard line, 200 yard line, etc) to see how far the Lego skier traveled. He even cut a hole middle of the box so he could see how fast it went. Here is Josh's Lego skier. He and Josiah took turns racing their skiers down the "run". Boys are so competitive!Michael put Hailey and Josh to work painting the pilasters, crown head and pediment that are going to go around our front door. They thought that was the bomb! I went for a motorcycle ride and then a card-making class so I didn't have to watch. I'm just way too picky about that kind of thing. Michael reassured me that he would repaint them and they would look good.A couple of nights ago, we decided to pull up our very uneven hallway to prepare for the new wood flooring. We were just going to tear out the old flooring, but we found this underneath. The boards were extremely cracked and broken. No wonder the floor was creaking and it was so concave in nature! So we decided to fix it the right way, which meant we had to remove all of the flooring down to the joists. Yes, that is insulation you see.Michael had to lay two pieces of plywood down to create a new sub-floor. It was weird walking on such a flat surface in the hallway. I never noticed how uneven it was before. Nice to know it is good shape now. The rest of this week will involve putting oak trim across the support beam. We got the bottom done last night and it looks great. Michael is working for the  Guards this week, that is why he is still in his uniform in these pictures. It has been nice to have him home earlier.

Been making cheese, replanting part of the garden (mostly warm weather plants), homeschooling and database work. Tonight we are taking the boys to see an "Extreme Bulls" show at our local rodeo grounds. Then tomorrow I'm off to scrapbook camp. Still haven't got the last 100+ pages in albums. Have a great weekend, everyone!

God Bless,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Homemade Blender Milk Soap

For this soap, you can use fancy molds or simply pour soap into a bread pan and cut it to the size of bars you want. Love how versatile and forgiving this recipe is. It is great for redheaded children, babies and other people with sensitive skin. 
Last weekend, in the midst of visiting my sister, she watched my kids so I could learn to make milk soap in blender at my step-grandmother's house (Regina). I was pleased to learn it was actually a very simple process. I really like milk soap because it makes your skin feel great. We use it for hands, face and body. I thought I'd post about it before I forgot the instructions. 

Here are the ingredients:
6 oz. frozen milk (just freeze in ice cube trays)
4 Tbl lye granules
16 oz of shortening, lard, or tallow 

I took pictures of Regina making the first batch. 

First she measured 6 oz of frozen milk cubes (need to use frozen because the lye will burn the milk and make it look and smell bad) into a stainless steel milk shake cup. You can use any stainless steel item, as long as you can easily pour it into a blender. She stuck the bottom down into the drain for stability. Next she measured out 4 Tbl lye granules into the cup. Unlike her, I will be using gloves! You do not want to get lye on your skin. Ouch!
Using an old wooden spoon, she kept poking and stirring the lye and milk so that it wouldn't create "hot spots" in the milk as it melted, which kept it from burning. While the frozen milk was melting, we measured out 16 oz. of shortening and just barely melted it (don't get it too hot).She poured the melted shortening into the blender and then poured the melted milk and lye mixture over that. She used an old glass blender she has bought at a yard sale.She immediately pulse blended about 5 times, checked, blended a couple more times until it got to the "trace stage". That means it is just starting to thicken up or set up. This is where you add the essential oils, oatmeal or whatever you wish. We just added probably 1 tsp of peppermint oil. This picture was taken soon after trace, after we had added the peppermint oil and it was really starting to get thick. You don't want it any thicker than this when you are scraping it out of the blender. We pulse blended it a couple more times and then quickly scraped it out of the blender into a plastic lined bread pan. We smoothed the top down with a knife. She said she would let it set a few days and then cut it. It'll be ready to use a month from now. I can't wait to see how it turned out. Talk about cheap and easy! This isn't fancy soap, although you can make it look fancy using soap molds. It makes my skin feel great. Regina wasn't super precise in her measurements, but it all seemed to turn out well. It is a very forgiving recipe.
Regina also uses tallow (beef fat) or lard with this same recipe. Watch it though, because different fats set up quicker. I think tallow sets up very quickly. At first I wasn't thrilled that we were using shortening, but why not? It isn't like we're ingesting it. Regina puts her animal fats in the crockpot. She lets it render all day and then puts it in the fridge and pops out a big chunk of fat, wipes off the underside, and there is fat already to make soap. I put my fat in the crock pot, let it render for about 24 hours on low and then strain it through a cheese cloth into a plastic bucket that I can freeze. Great way to use up more of the animal. 
Anyway, after she made a batch, she let me make one, too, and it looked like it turned out good. I've received many compliments on my soap. It isn't pretty or fancy, but it cleans well and moisturizes at the same time. My husband uses it instead of shampoo and I use it in place of shave gel. If any of you do try this recipe, please leave a comment and let me know how it turned out. 
God Bless,

P.S. I've made this recipe many times now and sometimes I can't get it to go to trace, but I pour it into molds anyway, and let it sit a month and it still works! This really IS the most forgiving soap recipe. I've even used up to two TBL of lye less for this recipe for relatives who have super sensitive skin and it make take a bit longer to dry out and never goes to trace, but it still turns out great.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Work/Fun

Hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and had a chance to take some time and reflect on those veterans who died in defense of our country. We worked and played hard last weekend despite the rainy weather. We had the pleasure of having my sister's 4th child, Andrew (5 yrs), up for a visit. The kids all had a great time playing together. He especially liked helping with all out with the remodeling going on at our place. First thing, Saturday morning, I woke up to Michael and the boys tearing out the carpet and tacking strip in the hallway to prepare for laying the new wood floor. I discovered Andrew has a thing for sweeping. We let him do that all he wanted, LOL! Friday night, Michael and I finished putting up the rest of the bead board in the living room and hallway. Even though we were dealing with only half sheets of this stuff, it was still super heavy and so I ended up using my head most of the time (I know, not a real attractive picture). We're painting it tonight. Can't wait to see how it'll turn out. The pile of wood you see here is our new oak flooring. Michael had the kids rolling out the felt that goes under the wood floor. On Saturday, a MOPS friend, Cora, invited us out to the country for an barbecue. Another MOPS friend, Sarah, and her family were also able to make it. The weather was terrible all weekend, but God smiled on us and gave us just enough good weather for the bbq. We had more food that you could shake a stick at! The kids had an awesome time playing (everyone got along, yeah!). I really thought my kids were going to get sick (they all had diarrhea the next day from eating too much watermelon) from eating too much. Our husbands tended the grill and the bonfire. It was the first time our hubbies had met and they got along smashingly. All our hubbies hunt and fish, so they had a lot to talk about.Doesn't this picture just say it all? Oh my gosh, the kids ate S'mores until they about popped and us adults had strawberry shortcake with Romanian whip cream (can't remember the name of it). Sarah's husband is from Romania, so it was fun to taste something from his culture. On Memorial Day, we were invited to a homeschool picnic that ended up being moved indoors because of the rainy weather. It was so much fun! There were 150+ peole there, probably 2/3 children. It was very well organized. It started out with prayer and a great question and answer time about the history of Memorial Day. Then we moved into games for the kids. The games they played were all set up for kids of all ages and they had the older kids help the younger. This is Hailey and friend set up for the leg race. They were absolutely adorable! Even my nephew, Andrew ran one race (he is recovering from his surgery) and got third place. I was so proud of him! Josiah won first place for running in his age group. Here is a picture of Josiah and Chloe doing a leg race. They did so many different fun games, egg in the spoon, balloon behind the back, sweeping the balloon, etc... Even the older kids were having a blast. They were so fun to watch. Very competitive! 

Thanks to all who commented on my previous post. I passed on all your thank you's to my hubby. Hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend!

God Bless,


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